Mark “Chopper” Read is probably the most infamous criminal in Australian history.
He was a larger-than-life character who slowly became a part of the country’s identity. A violent and unpredictable criminal who somehow managed to make the Australian public revere him through his books, comedy shows and public appearances.
Read was responsible for the death and torture of many underground figures, his acts of violence were often as spontaneous as they were disturbing.
He was also married… twice. The infamous Chopper Read was husband and father.
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Read was born in Melbourne on November 17, 1954. His father was a Korean war veteran and his mother was devout Seventh Day Adventist.
The career criminal spent most of his childhood moving between foster homes, orphanages and psychiatric hospitals and in his late teens he entered the criminal underworld. Read joined the “Surrey Road Gang” and was soon a well known street fighter.
Between the ages of 20 and 38, Read spent just 13 months outside jail, a little over a year as a free man.
During his time behind bars, he inflamed a gang war inside Pentridge Prison’s infamous H Division. He then infamously made one of his fellow inmates cut off both his ears so he would be transferred out of the wing.
In 1982, Read expressed concerns that he would never be able to leave his violent past behind and create a new life for himself.
“I don’t want to get married, or raise a brood of children, or lead a normal life,” he said.
“I’ve got no interest in that.”
But when he was released in 1991, he did just that.
Read moved to Tasmania and attempted to live a crime free life with his partner, Margaret Cassar. Cassar famously said she never knew “Chopper”, only Mark.
“I see a very gentle person and I see a lot of warmth in him where others may not have been able to reach,” she said.
However, the couple later broke up and Read returned to the underworld.
In 1992, he was convicted of shooting bikie boss Sidney Collins in the chest. It’s alleged that Read shot Collins in his own car, before driving him to the hospital.
During a 2013 interview with 60 Minutes, Read admitted he shot Collins because the bikie boss had invited him to his wedding and demanded an $8000 gift.
“I’m not giving $8000 to his bloody wedding, I don’t even know how to ride a motorbike,” he told the program.
In 1995, while still serving time in Tasmania’s Risdon Prison, Read married a woman named Mary-Ann Hodge. Their son, Charlie, was born in 1999.
Hodge was private educated and worked for the ATO. She had read Read’s first book and arranged to meet him.
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When he was released from prison, Read started to embrace the public life. He wrote more auto-biographical books and toured his comedy show throughout the country.
In 2001, he left Tasmania and Hodge behind and moved back to Melbourne. According to the ABC, Read later confessed he only married Hodge in an attempt to get out of jail.
Hodge told the media she never knew the “lovable rogue” side of Read, only the violent mood swings which were further fueled by alcohol and prescription drugs.
In Melbourne Read reunited with Cassar, the pair married and went on to have a son together who they named Roy.
Read and Cassar remained married until Australia’s most notorious criminal died from terminal liver cancer in 2013.
The first episode of Underbelly Files: Chopper aired on Channel Nine on Sunday night.
Feature image: Ella Scott Lynch plays Margaret Cassar in Underbelly Files: Chopper. Image via Channel Nine.